The "aquilla" (when executed in metal) or "kero" (when made of wood) was the principal ritual libation vessel among the peoples of ancient Peru, Bolivia, and northern Chile. This distinctive vessel form has ancient origins but became particularly prevalent during the Early Intermediate Period (100 - 600 CE). This dynamic time witnessed socio-political intensification and an increase in the numbers of political elites throughout the Andes, with an interconnected multiplication of aristocratic ceremonial events that emphasized hierarchy and authority. The ritual consumption of chicha (maize beer), the mildly alcoholic beverage traditionally served in aquillas or keros, was integral to these politically charged social events.
This libation vessel diverges from the typical aquilla's beaker form. It is more similar to a special goblet version of the aquilla or kero that is intimately connected to the "Sacrifice Ceremony" depicted on Moche painted ceramics. The political importance of this type of vessel is underscored by its renderings on colossal stone portraits of mythical founders that punctuated the ceremonial heart of the imperial center of Tiwanaku, Bolivia. These impressive portrayals effuse elite authority by their size, the sacred symbols decorating the figures' elaborate clothing, and the presence of a snuff tray and a drinking vessel held by each founder. Among the contemporary Wari in Peru, many portrayals of figures holding drinking vessels depict a maize plant rising from the vessel. This iconic indicator suggests that the vessel was used to drink maize beer (chicha), an important ritual libation and offering. The maize-kero dyad also makes reference to the vessel's pan-Andean use as the offering receptacle for blood to be poured on the ground during rites to ensure abundant crops.
Ron Messick Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico; purchased by John G. Bourne, December 18, 1999; by bequest to Walters Art Museum, 2017.